12:09 pm - Saturday April 20, 2024

Egypt to elect president first

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Egypt will pick a president before parliament, a widely expected change in a political transition plan as public support for army chief and July coup leader General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi grows stronger.

But the country remains dangerously divided, as seen in clashes that killed at least 49 people a day earlier and militant attacks in the country’s troubled Sinai Peninsula that left several soldiers dead.

The decision follows weeks of deliberations with different political groups who had pushed for holding presidential, not parliamentary elections first, as had been originally planned.

The transition plan, adopted Egypt’s first freely elected president, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, was ousted, calls for both elections within six months of the adoption of a new constitution. The charter was passed on January 18.

The presidential election is now expected before the end of April, while a parliamentary vote should come before the end of July.

The announcement came amid rising expectations that Gen el-Sissi will run for president after leading the coup that toppled Mr Morsi following massive protests against him.

“Having presidential elections first will lead to stability faster,” said Ahmed Gamaleddin, the leader of an alliance of political parties comprised mostly of former security and military officials, some of whom had worked under autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who led Egypt for nearly 30 years.

He said his group, “Egypt my Country”, will encourage Gen el-Sissi to run for office because he has enough popular backing.

The alliance was a main sponsor of the calls to rally in support of the general on Saturday, the third anniversary of the uprising against Mr Mubarak, who preceded Mr Morsi.

The rallies saw ecstatic crowds gather across the country, carrying posters of the general and already calling him “my president”.

But divisions still run deep. The celebrations competed with widespread clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters, who have vowed to keep up their protests against the interim authorities. The fighting killed at least 49 people.

Islamist politician Mohammed Mahsoob, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition that is rallying for Mr Morsi’s return to office, said the decision only exposes the difficulty the current authorities are facing.

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